Diaper-changing tables aren’t just for women’s restrooms. They need to be in men’s public restrooms, too.
If you’ve ever tried to change a squirming baby in a public restroom without one, then you know the struggle. Spreading a blanket or, worse, a coat onto the floor next to a toilet for the baby to lie on can be really awkward, not to mention gross.
Donte Palmer found himself in need of a diaper-changing table at a restaurant in Florida recently. But instead of laying his 1-year-old son, Liam, on the floor inside a bathroom stall, Palmer improvised by dropping into what he calls a deep “man squat” and placing the toddler over his knees, with the boy’s head and legs hanging off.
It was a strange sight.
But like hands-on dads everywhere, Palmer did what he needed to do to get his baby cleaned up. As he worked, his 12-year-old, whom Palmer had brought along to assist, surreptitiously snapped photos. Back at their table, the family looked at the images and had a good laugh. Palmer posted the photos on Facebook and Instagram, and then watched in amazement as thousands of likes and comments poured in and the photo went viral.
TheShadeRoom.com, a celebrity-gossip site, shared the image with its 14.5 million followers on Instagram, and soon he was hearing from reporters at his local ABC affiliate, the Washington Post, and the New York Times among other media outlets. Fathers from around the world sent photos and reached out, as have celebrities such as Jessica Alba, who also gave the family free diapers from her baby products line, Honest Company.
“It’s been 2½ months now, and a lot has happened,” said Palmer, a 2004 graduate of Bartram Motivation High School who relocated to Florida four years ago.
The 32-year-old father of three has decided to start a #squatforchange movement that he hopes will help raise awareness about the need for potty-room parity.
I wish him luck with that. This may not be a huge issue, but it really is a matter of equity. It’s right up there with the need for women to have private spaces to nurse their babies that aren’t also public restrooms. Mothers have rightfully clamored for years about needing certain things so they can best care for their offspring. But fathers have needs, too.
Most public men’s rooms don’t have diaper-changing tables, and that’s an oversight that needs to be addressed. Several years ago, the actor Ashton Kutcher helped start a conversation about this when he complained about it on Facebook, writing, “There are NEVER diaper changing stations in mens public restrooms.”
“Never” is a stretch. Some public men’s restrooms such as those at service plazas along the Pennsylvania Turnpike have them. And in 2016, City Councilwoman Cindy Bass successfully sponsored legislation to make city-owned facilities more family-friendly by adding diaper changing stations in both men’s and women’s restrooms.
“We have not caught up to our changing family dynamics,” pointed out Joel Austin, founder of Daddy University Inc., the Philadelphia-based company that teaches parenting skills to men.
In 2016, President Barack Obama signed legislation to address the problem, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough, because it only applies to federal buildings.
“The assumption is that men don’t parent,” said Jeffrey Levin, a fathers' rights attorney based in Chicago. “There are many single dads raising children, and they don’t have the same resources that mothers do.”
Businesses such as the restaurant where the Palmers were dining when the photo was taken could easily remedy this situation, but haven’t and won’t without prodding. It will have to be mandated on a state-by-state basis.